Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A lesson in cupcake decorating with the Butterlicious Cake Company

My finished creations!
I struggled slightly to think of birthday present ideas for myself this year - I must have had too many birthdays! But it wasn't long until I hit upon an idea that satisfied a couple of things that I miss in my new life as a Mummy. Firstly, a chance to do something by myself (whilst Bobble enjoyed some Daddy time) and secondly, having the opportunity to do something creative.

As you know, I love baking, but if you remember Bobble's birthday cake fiasco, my enthusiasm doesn't always equal a particularly creative output! I love making cupcakes, but in my own words, they do often look like they've been decorated by a very eager child. So with this in mind, I decided that what I would love to do, was have a cupcake decorating lesson. A little research led me to booking a lesson with Lynne, a very lovely lady who runs the Butterlicious Cake Company right here in St Neots.

What we covered in the lesson

I had a 3 hour 1 to 1 lesson with Lynne, at her beautiful home, from where she runs the Butterlicious Cake Company. During the course of the lesson she shared with me some fantastic tips and advice about how to make stunning, (verging on too-good-to-eat!) cupcakes. She talked about the importance of selecting the right colours for the decorations as well as how best to present the finished cupcakes in their box.

Lynne is a former teacher so is a complete natural at running the workshop. She explains things extremely well and gives lots of support and encouragement as you try to replicate what she's demonstrated.

As well as showing me the tools of the trade, it was very much a hands-on lesson during which I decorated 6 cupcakes of my own which I took home and devoured with my very impressed husband. The cupcakes had been baked in advance by Lynne and were by far the most delicious vanilla cupcakes I've ever tasted. I have to confess that I always skip past vanilla flavours in recipe books and go for chocolate, red velvet or something more adventurous. Not any more, I've been converted!

During the lesson I got to use a variety of cutters and moulds and worked with florist sugar paste to create delicate flowers, shells and even a Lego man! The decorations were given a final flourish in the form of luster dusts and edible paints. I've never felt that I have a particular fine touch when it comes to delicate work, but for a beginner, I couldn't quite believe what my (usually heavy hands) had created.

After the lesson

Lynne provided workshop notes to accompany the lesson which are fabulous. I will definitely be referring back to these, and I've already starting shopping for some of the tools of the trade so that I can attempt to create some of these beautiful cakes at home. While I don't think I'll ever be up to selling my cakes, I'm delighted with what I was able to learn in one lesson and having now shared these pictures with my friends and family, I think I've raised the bar for future birthdays and celebrations!

A small note about my rather sinister looking Lego man! Unfortunately he wasn't quite dry at the end of the class so putting his face on didn't go that smoothly. Left a little longer, he wouldn't have such hollow eyes and such a manic grin! Bobble's Daddy didn't seem to mind at all and wolfed this cupcake down first!

Food for thought?

I think a workshop like this is a great activity if you want to indulge yourself, or for a group of friends sharing a love of baking. It would make a brilliant activity for a hen party, or even for a birthday party for little ones. Lynne is planning on running more workshops in the future, so do get in touch with her to find out more.

A little bit about The Butterlicious Cake Company

Specialising in de-licious flavours and beauti-licious toppings, their cupcakes are freshly made with the finest ingredients. Their regular flavours include Classic Vanilla, Decadent Chocolate, Luscious Lemon, Carrot, Coffee, Lemon Meringue and a family favourite, French Toast! Toppings include the creamiest buttercream in vanilla, cream cheese, chocolate, coffee and other flavours or their stunning sugar paste creations. Gluten Free cupcakes are also available. So if you're looking for a utterly delicious cake maker in the Cambridgeshire area, I would definitely recommend The Butterlicious Cake Company.

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Monday, 29 July 2013

Introducing Joolz Day - A great pushchair for tall parents

Before I tell you about why we went for the Joolz Day and why I love it, let me describe what we were looking for in a pushchair. In no particular order, this is what was on our must-have list.

Top features we wanted in a pushchair

  1. Carry cot and toddler seat - either two separate parts or something that would covert. I personally don't like seeing tiny babies in anything other than a lay flat carry cot, and for as long as possible.
  2. An easy fold. I wasn't fussed about being able to do it with one hand, I just wanted something easy.
  3. Solid and well built, balanced with a frame that isn't ridiculously heavy.
  4. A basket big enough to contain a rain cover, and preferably more.
  5. Adjustable handles that come up nice and high - we're both fairly tall (5ft 8 and almost 6ft).
  6. Not costing the earth - preferably under £500
  7. Tough enough to take on rougher terrains, not fully off road, but should be able to cope with grass and paths that aren't completely smooth.
  8. Ability to put a car seat on the frame.

Features that we weren't fussed about

Things that weren't important to me...
  1. Size. Our car is an estate, so while I obviously didn't want it to fill the car, it didn't have fold down really small either.
  2. Designer brand - quality is much more important that the 'right' name.
  3. Available in blue or pink or other crazy patterns and colours. Ugh. I hate this. Sorry! 

Late additions to the must-have features list

Funnily enough, after using a pushchair for the last 16 months, there are some things that I've come to realise are important, which weren't on my original list. I would definitely include these features on my must have list for any future purchases.
  1. A seat unit that faces both ways (i.e. parent and outward).
  2. A seat unit that has several positions including lay flat and fully upright.
  3. A good sized hood that offers good protection from the sun.
  4. 4 wheels rather than 3. When you hit a curb, a single wheel at the front often spins and puts itself in a sideways position, making it hard to get over the curb. 4 wheels just feels more stable.
  5. A high seat unit that enables you to use the pushchair as a highchair, and brings your baby nice and close to you when they're parent facing.
  6. A mattress in the carry cot suitable for overnight stays.

Taking the Joolz, and Bobble, for their first walk

Why did we choose the Joolz Day?

Ok, that's enough lists for now! So how did we end up buying the Joolz Day? It was quite a long process. After shopping around and reading lots of online reviews and watching online demos, we fancied the features and looks of the Bugaboo Cameleon and the iCandy Peach. But retailing at almost £1000 when you tot up the cost of all the kit, these were budget busting. For a while I was determined to buy one or the other second hand, but they both hold their values well and it seemed that we would be paying around £500 for something that was going to look 'well used'. I've no issues with buying second hand, but I drew the line at something that was going to look tatty and faded. Also, after another try of the Cameleon, I found that I really couldn't get the hang of the fold.

Then one day we came across the Joolz Day. Designed in The Netherlands (where the Bugaboo range comes from), it's USP was the 'DAY' - Designed Around You. In short, its design is ergonomic, with benefits for parent and baby.

These benefits are...
  • Very high adjustable handle - great for tall parents.
  • Very high position for the carry cot and baby seat - less bending down for you.
  • Suspension on all 4 wheels - extra comfort for your baby and easy pushing for you.
  • A centre of gravity that means the whole thing won't tip over with a large bag on the handle and no baby in the seat.

Why we fell in love with it

I loved the look of the Joolz Day, and in terms of all of my other 'wants' it pretty much ticked every box.
  • Carry cot and seat all included for one price.
  • Overnight mattress on the carry cot (no need to take the moses basket away on those early trips to see grandparents).
  • Big rear air-filled tyres making it extremely easy to push across a variety of terrains.
  • Easy fold and the ability to go fairly small and flat with the wheels off (even the carry cot collapses).
  • Compatible with Maxi Cosi car seats.

Money money money

Let me out!
Joolz is one of those brands where they don't like to display their prices online (so annoying! I don't understand this at all!) but all in (excluding accessories) expect to pay between £550 and £650. This was a little more than we were hoping to spend, but being a smart shopper, I managed to buy an ex display model via the eBay store of a nursery shop for £480. The seat unit hadn't even been taken out of its wrapper and everything else was good as new, complete with a full warranty.

Thoughts after using it for 16 months

Plenty of space for pram gymnastics
By now, I think I've given my Joolz a full road test, goodness knows how many times I've used it! I can safely say that I'm not going to stop using it and switch to a basic umbrella fold stroller as a lot of mummies do at this stage. When we've used one on holiday, we really miss the Joolz! However, there are some slightly less than perfect things that I would also like to point out:
  • My rain cover tore in several places after less than a year's use - Joolz have since replaced it for free.
  • The black frame does mark very easily. The scuffs (and they are these rather than scratches) can be rubbed off with a little elbow grease.
  • My rear tyres have suffered punctures on two occasions.
  • The seat unit is started to look a little faded where Bobble's legs sit.
  • I wouldn't buy from a shop not local to me again. It's been a pain where we've had issues with things such as the rain cover and an issue with locking the front wheels. Any money that we saved by buying online has probably been spent on petrol!
However, all in all, I would definitely recommend this puschair. I think it's a great compromise if you like the features and looks of the pricier Bugaboos and iCandys, but want to spend a lot less. I hope to get several more years of use from my Joolz Day.


Where can I buy it?

The mecca of baby shopping, Kiddicare, sells the Joolz Day instore, but not online. Visit the Joolz website to find a retailer local to you.

Now this little boy looks like one very satisfied fan of the Joolz Day!

Disclaimer: As ever, all thoughts and opinions are my own and no money has exchanged hands in return for the writing of this post.
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Thursday, 25 July 2013

A-Z of saving money

Airmiles. If you or your partner travels for work, check whether you're allowed to keep and spend the airmiles personally. Avios (BA) now lets you redeem them against flights, hotels and car hire. We once enjoyed a 4 night break in a 5* hotel in Jersey with flights and car hire for £56, for both of us. What a bargain.

Budgeting. It's kind of obvious, but if you don't work out how much you've got to spend and on what, how much control have you got over your finances? I know it's utterly dull, but go through your bank account in detail over 6 or 12 months and you'll build up a very clear picture of where all your money goes.

Clubcard points. If you shop regularly as Tesco, you are missing out if you don't get a clubcard. The points soon add up and are nearly always worth double their monetary value when you spend them. The places that they can be redeemed are pretty good too.

Delivery charges. It's getting easier to avoid paying these. A lot of shops offer a 'free to store' delivery option and many offers are either dropping their charges completely (Amazon) or will run 'free delivery' promotions.

Ebay. Buying or selling - you can still get a bargain or make a few quid on this old favourite.

Freecycle. Sign up to the one in your local area to get rid of things you no longer need (one man's junk is another man's treasure) and to pick up bargains, for zero cash. 

Groups, specifically Facebook selling groups - they're hot with secondhand bargains. Find and join your local groups to find the best deals in your local area.

Handmade. If you're a genius in the kitchen, a master of a sewing machine or an absolute pro with a camera, they why not offer up your skills as a Christmas or birthday present?

Insurance. While paying out a (steadily increasing) annual premium might seem like somewhere you could save money, don't be tempted. Most people can't afford to not have insurance. And if you can, then you are probably wasting your time reading these tips!

Jewellery. Got some old jewellery that you don't wear anymore? Gold in particular is easy to trade in for a bit of extra cash.

Kayak.co.uk A travel website (flights, hotels, car hire, holidays) with lots of lovely filters, including a trip advisor rating.

Loyalty cards. Is there a shop that you shop in on a regular basis? Then make sure that you get a loyalty card. They don't cost a thing and you will eventually build up enough points for a freebie.

Moneysavingexpert.com A fabulous website. Sign up immediately to the newsletter and don't consider making a financial investment (be it something to do with savings or a big purchase like choosing a new phone contract) without visiting the website first.

No. Sometimes you have to say no, which feels uncomfortable. And for us Brits, we really really don't like this, which is why we so often say yes when what we want to do is say no. No works particularly well in cross-selling situations, special offers on things you don't really need and auto renewal on services you don't need or use.

Oyster. If you're visiting London either as a day tripper or as daily commuter, you need to get an Oyster card. It's the cheapest way to pay for single journeys on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in London.

Photobox.co.uk. I love this website for two reasons - 1. They produce top quality products and 2. They regularly run really great offers. Make sure you sign up to hear about their promotions.

Quidco. My preferred cashback website.

Recycle. There are so many things that can be used more than once and save you money at the same time. How about cutting up your old Christmas cards to use as gift tags for next year's presents?

Shop around. It's so simple, and it doesn't just apply to online shopping. Many retail shops offer a price match guarantee, and even if they don't, it's worth asking if they can offer you a deal.

TK Maxx. I flipping love this shop. You need patience to sift through the rails, but the pay offs are great - anything from 50%-70+% off high street prices on quality clothes, shoes and homewares.

Uswitch.com Make sure you're on the right deal for your gas & electricity, broadband & phone and mobile phone contracts.

Vouchers. When I eat at a chain, I rarely choose somewhere without checking for discount vouchers and special offers first. The vouchercodes app is pretty good when you're out and about.

Wewin4u.co.uk Subscribe to this brilliant little website and instantly get entered into thousands of online competitions. I've won some amazing prizes courtesy of this website.

X Ok, I'm stumped with this letter! But it's a perfect gap in the market if you want to set up a penny saving website!

YouTube I'm stretching this slightly, but did you know that YouTube, as well as featuring lots of hilarious videos of bad dancing and cute kittens, also contains product review videos and 'how-to' guides? When I was pushchair browsing, I used the dedicated Kiddicare channel to watch demos of different pushchairs being folded and unfolded and their unique features being highlighted. You can also look up videos of all kinds of random things like replacing a cracked screen on your iPhone.

Zzzzzzs (cop out, I know, but this is a hard letter!) Make sure you get enough sleep. Shopping in a sleep deprived state of mind will lead to you making bad choices. You might buy something you don't really need or you'll fill your supermarket trolley with convenience food, which always costs more!

Share your top tips

Phew! Well that was 27 ways (ish!) of saving money. What's the biggest amount of money you saved, and how did you do it?
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Monday, 22 July 2013

The secret to sitting down comfortably after your baby is born

As I write, the Duchess of Cambridge is at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, in labour. I can't help but feel a little bit sorry for the poor gal. We opted to only tell immediate family when my labour began. No such privacy for Kate, she has the whole world clammering to know the minute-by-minute details of her labour. For her sake, I hope her birth is easy, uncomplicated and that the baby is healthy.

So today I wanted to share a tip specifically for postnatal women. If you've had a natural birth, no matter how well things went, the chances are that you'll be feeling a little bit sore. Especially sitting down! Bruising, tears, grazes, stitches... ouch, ouch, ouch. It's not fun. But there is something that you can buy to make you feel a little more comfortable.

You'll probably have been advised to take plenty of baths after the birth. But did you know that there's something magical that you can put in your bath? Badedas has been around since the 70s (see this seriously questionable ad alluding to what happens to a woman after a Badedas bath! Horse-related? Not sure that's legal!) Dodgy woman-horse relationships aside, midwifes and new mums have been recommending Badedas Rich Bath Gelee for years. Containing horse chesnut, the gelee smells delicious and a little goes a long way.

I'm afraid I don't know why it works so well on postnatal women, but it really does. Without going into too much personal detail, I can hand-on-heart say that using this in two baths a day for two weeks after Bobble's birth really did help me. And I needed a lot of help! Unlike other home remedies for easing the ouch, it doesn't sting, and the scent is really relaxing. It's also safe to use before your baby is born, when long soothing baths are also to be encouraged.

The only downside is the price, it's over £6 for a 300ml bottle. But as long as you keep it away from the rest of your family, one bottle should see you through more than one baby!

It's available to buy from Superdrug, Boots and some large supermarkets.

So if you're looking for a great gift for a baby shower, why not grab a bottle of this? Let's hope that William has got some on standby for Kate!

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Sunday, 14 July 2013

Through the lens - hello you!

When I started the 'through the lens' theme, I planned to share photos of places rather than people. To inspire some wanderlust if you like. But I've been thinking lately about what makes a great photo. You can spend hours setting up the perfect angle, lightening and subject. But sometimes, a picture is brilliant because it's a shot that has perfectly capturing a moment, where you just happened to press the button at the right moment.

Now that Bobble is so wonderfully mobile, he gets a bit more of a say in the many moments that a camera is pointed in his direction. His interactions with the camera can produce some pretty funny shots, and occasionally, they capture his cheekiness and inquisitiveness perfectly. Lately I've been holding my camera down at his level, not looking through the lens and just shooting. The results have been mixed, but they definitely show him in a different light and angle.

This photo wasn't taken by me (duh, I'm in it!) and it wasn't taken in the way I've described above, but the theory is still the same. I love it. I love the closeness to the camera. I love the peering down the lens. And I love the fact that there's someone in the background loving the moment.

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Saturday, 13 July 2013

Introducing Myakka - fairtrade furniture

An exciting delivery arrived at our house last week - Bobble's birthday present from his paternal grandparents, Granny and Grandad. A lovely little giraffe bookcase, made from solid monkey pod wood.

Luckily as Bobble is only 1, he didn't seem to notice that his present had arrived four months late. I'd almost given up hope that it was ever going to arrive, but when it did, it was well worth the wait.

If you're interested in buying this bookcase, look it up on the Myakka website.

As well as showing you this gorgeous present, I wanted to introduce you to Myakka, a fair trade furniture company that is rather popular in our house. There are several reasons to love Myakka furniture, here's my top 5 reasons:
  1. It's solid wood furniture. MDF and flat pack certainly has its place, but sometimes it's nice to take delivery of a piece of furniture and know that it will last, and that you won't need to fight with a million tiny screws and allen keys before you get to enjoy it. 
  2. It is very affordable. It's not flat pack Scandinavian cheap (naturally), but I think you get a lot of quality for your money.
  3. It is fair trade. Myakka work with a supplier in India to ensure fair and proper prices for everyone. Read more about it on their website.
  4. Sheesham Indian wood, along with Acacia, Mango and Monkey Pod is fast growing and sustainable.
  5. Their customer service is excellent. Yes, there was a big delay on this bookcase, but I didn't ever feel like they weren't eventually going to deliver the item - because they had my trust.
So if you're looking for some new furniture, why not take a look at their website. And what a bonus, they're currently having a summer sale!


This is not a sponsored post. All of our previous purchases, including this one, have been paid for and selected by me.


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Friday, 12 July 2013

If it ain't broke... - how to mend the 'new' Gmail inbox

I'm not a big fan of change. I like order. I like things to be the same. No surprises. You get the picture. So you'll understand my dread when I log in to my Gmail account to be greeted with a 'welcome to your new inbox' message. Uh oh.

So is my dread justified? Absolutely. Don't get me wrong. I love Google. I love Gmail. It's generally a pretty smart, reliable and very user-friendly email platform. But why would I want to organise my inbox into different tabs? Why oh why Google? Why would you presume that I'm not efficient enough to want to filter through my own emails, by making a quick visual judgement based on sender name and subject line? (Isn't this what folders are for?) Am I really not clever enough to do that myself? Please! Give me a little credit.

There have been some awful changes to Gmail in the past, and as usual, there are some quick ways to revert back the changes.

So if you hate change like me, here's how to fix your Gmail inbox and make it good as new. Or at least as good as it used to be before Google decided that we needed help.

At the end of your lovely new tabs, there's a plus symbol. Click on this and you will see the window below.

Untick all tabs except 'Primary', then press save.

If, for some unknown reason, you want to reinstall the tabs, you can get back to this window by clicking on the cog symbol in the top right, then selecting 'configure inbox'.

 I hope that helps!

And relax... order is restored.

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Thursday, 4 July 2013

The best BBQ sauce that you'll ever taste

With a BBQ weekend on the horizon (cross those fingers tight) I wanted to share a recipe that I discovered a few years ago. It is for the most utterly divine BBQ sauce. The best you'll ever taste, I promise! If you like BBQ sauce that is sticky like jam, sweet like brown sugar and so ridiculously moreish that you will want to eat it with a spoon, then you're going to love this.

Smother it over sausages, burgers, kebabs, roasted vegetables and whatever else is cooking on your grill. You won't regret it, and you'll never buy a bottle of supermarket sauce again.


  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • olive oil
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped 
  •  salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • 55g/2oz dark brown sugar
  • 50ml/1¾fl oz dark soy sauce
  • 300ml/10fl oz tomato ketchup

Preparation method

  1. Fry the onion and garlic in olive oil with the chilli, fennel seeds and sugar.
  2. Add the soy sauce and ketchup and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes to combine the flavours.

Credit for the recipe goes to James Martin via the consistently wonderful BBC food recipe's website.
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Monday, 1 July 2013

Freecycle - One man's junk is another man's treasure

A super quick, super simple post for a Monday. I wanted to introduce you to the joys of Freecycle. I'm sure many of you have heard of it, and many more are probably using it. It's not exactly a new website, in fact it's been going since 2003. However, it might be one of those things that you don't quite understand or know much about.

So, I thought it might be helpful to give an easy 5 minute guide to using Freecycle. My experience of Freecycle is that it's a fantastic way of getting rid of things that you no longer need, without the hassle of either trying to sell them on ebay, or taking them to your local recycling centre or tip.

What is Freecycle?

Freecycle is a local, community-based recycling organisation. It's a network that connects people who have items they no longer need, with people who can make use of them - with no money changing hands. People looking for items can also post requests for 'wanted' items on the network.

How does it work?

You register on your local Freecycle website and in doing so, you will receive a daily email containing details of the items available to offer, and items wanted.

What sort of things do people offer on Freecycle?

Anything and everything! Furniture, books, clothes, car parts, garden equipment, kitchenware, baby equipment, electrical equipment... the list goes on! I've checked the email I received today and on offer are fencing posts, bunk beds, wood pallets and wildlife magazines - a fairly eclectic mix! Some things are not allowed - pornography, alcohol, tobacco, drugs and firearms - no surprises there!

Does it need to be in good working order?

No. So long as you describe its condition accurately (so the recipient knows what they're getting), it really doesn't matter. After all, if it was in perfect condition, you would probably make some money wouldn't you? Most of the things I've got rid of via Freecycle were broken to some degree! You'll be amazed at what someone else can do with something that is just cluttering up your garage or house.

I've got something to list, what do I do?

After signing up and registering with your local network, you simply write a short description of your item, it's location and you're done. No need to add photos or spend more than a couple of minutes on your offer ad. Your ad is then listed on the website for your local network and included in the daily email. People wanting your item will contact you by email, and you arrange a convenient time for them to collect it from your house.

Is it safe?

Use your common sense. If you don't want to deal directly with the person collecting the item, simply leave it on your doorstep, or arrange to meet them in a public place.

What are the benefits?

As well as clearing some space in your house or garden, you can enjoy the great feeling of being able to do something good for the environment, helping out someone in your community and the smugness of saving time of either a trip to the tip or half an hour crafting a detailed ebay listing. What's not to love?

My experience

I've only used Freecycle a few times, but each time I've been stunned at how quickly I've been able to get rid of something I no longer need. I've given away an old hosepipe (minus the trigger attachment), a barely working vacuum cleaner and a toy that no longer works. Each time I've had at least one request for the item and have had it collected from my house within 48 hours of listing the item. I should also mention that I don't live in a particularly large town - I imagine that in a city it's even easier to get rid of things.

Find out more

Don't be put off by the less then glamorous website, it's one of those things that just works without looking pretty!


Are you a Freecycler? What's the best thing that you've been able to pick up or the most unusual thing that you've been able to give away?

© 2003 The Freecycle Network 
All rights reserved. 
Freecycle and the Freecycle 
logo are trademarks of The 
Freecycle Network in various countries.
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